[1Sam 8-31]

Saul is made king of Israel

[1Sam 8-12] In his old age, Samuel makes his sons Joel and Abiah judges over Israel, but they are corrupt, take bribes and pervert justice. Consequently, the people ask for a king to judge over them. Samuel is displeased and prays to God about it. God tells Samuel that it is He they have rejected, not him, and to heed their request, but warn them of the disadvantages and ill consequences that would follow. Nevertheless, they insist on having a king to judge them and fight their battles. Kish, a Benjamite, has a son Saul who is very tall and handsome. Kish loses his asses and asks Saul to take a servant and go to look for them. They pass through mount Ephraim, Shalisha, Shalim, the land of the Benjamites and Zuph without finding the asses. Prompted by his servant, they go to look for the prophet known to be in the land to seek his guidance. The prophet, Samuel, had been told the previous day by God to expect Saul and goes out to meet him. Samuel invites them to eat with him and stay the night. Next day, before Saul and his servant leave, Samuel privately tells Saul God’s plan for him. He anoints Saul and declares he will be king, then tells him what will happen over the next few days. He will meet two men by Rachel’s sepulchre who will tell him his father’s asses have been found. He will then meet three men on their way to worship God who will acknowledge him, and give him two loaves of bread from their offerings. Finally, he would meet a group of prophets when the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him, he would prophesy with them and become a new man. He is then to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel who will come and make offerings. After being told all these things, Saul leaves Samuel. As he does, God gives him another heart and all that Samuel said takes place. Samuel gathers the people together at Mizpeth where he reminds them of what God has done for them, of their rejection of God and their request for a king. A process is followed whereby the tribe of Benjamin is selected from all those present, then the family of Matri, then Saul who Samuel introduces as their king. Saul then goes home to Gibeah with a band of men whose hearts God had touched. However, there were some there that despised Saul. Later, the Ammonites camp near Jabeshgilead, threatening the population who then attempt to enter a covenant with them. The condition set by the Ammonites is severe, requiring the right eye of every man. They negotiate for a delay, during which time messengers are sent throughout Israel seeking help. Saul is angered by their situation, cuts up some oxen and sends the pieces around Israel threatening the same will be done to their oxen if they do not support him and Samuel. The consequence is a large army is formed, the Ammonites are defeated and survivors scattered. This victory seals Saul’s position as king of all Israel. Samuel, in passing authority to their king, calls on the people to confirm the integrity with which he has conducted his office. He reminds them of all the things the Lord has done for them and, although they asked for a king to rule them and have been given one, it will be in their interest to continue to obey God’s commandments. If they don’t, He will be against them as He was with their forefathers. To make the point, Samuel calls upon the Lord to send thunder and rain (it would not be expected at this time of year) as an indication of God’s displeasure with them. The people are afraid, and so Samuel comforts and encourages them to serve the Lord with all their heart, for both the sake of themselves and their king.

God soon rejects Saul as king

[1Sam 13-15] Saul has now reigned for two years over Israel. Of the army that had earlier fought battles under him, he had selected 3000 to stay with him in Michmash and 1000 to be with his son Jonathan in Gibeah. Now Jonathan attacks a Philistine garrison, which provokes them to retaliation, and they prepare with large numbers to battle with the Israelites. Saul, now in Gilgal, gets impatient waiting for Samuel because people are beginning to desert him, so he took it upon himself to make offerings to God. On hearing of this sin, Samuel tells Saul that, as a result of his disobedience, God has chosen another to be king over Israel. The Philistines had in the past prevented the Israelites from learning the trade of smiths. Consequently, except for Saul and Jonathan, they have no sharpened weapons when the Philistines come against them. When the Philistines make their way to Micmash to battle with the Israelites, Jonathan and his armour bearer attack a garrison and the two of them kill twenty men. This strikes terror in the whole army which, having been observed by Saul’s spies, encourages Saul and his men, later joined by other Israelites, to take on and defeat the Philistines. Saul had made an oath forbidding his people to eat until evening for the sake of the battle, but Jonathan is unaware of this, and in his ignorance breaks the oath. Seeing Jonathan eat, and now being very hungry, the people are encouraged to slay some of the spoil from the battle and eat it with the blood, contrary to the law. Saul enquires of God whether he should pursue the Philistines until morning, but does not get an answer, which leads him to conclude a sin has been committed. An enquiry identifies Jonathan as the guilty party, for which Saul should have him killed, but the people speak up for Jonathan and he is spared. Saul goes on to have battles with neighbouring nations and subdues them, but the Philistines continue to be a problem to him all his days. God instructs Saul to utterly destroy Amalek, the nation that attacked Israel when they came out of Egypt. Saul gathers his army and goes to do battle with them, first allowing the Kenites to leave Amalek as they had shown kindness to Israel during their exodus. Saul destroys the Amalekites, but takes their king Agag as prisoner and saves the best of their livestock. God relates this disobedience to Samuel who grieves over it, then goes to meet Saul to reprove him. Samuel tells Saul that, because of his rejection of God’s word, he is now rejected by God as king. Samuel then kills Agag and returns to his home where he mourns for Saul. He does not meet with Saul again, and God repents of having made Saul king over Israel.

Samuel anoints David

[1Sam 16] God instructs Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint Saul’s successor from amongst his sons. Jesse’s sons are brought before Samuel one by one, but none is accepted by God. However, Jesse’s youngest son, David, is still in the fields tending the sheep, so Samuel asks for him to be fetched. When David stands before Samuel, God tells Samuel to anoint him. From this point forward the Spirit of God is with David, but the Spirit departs from Saul and from time to time he becomes troubled. To help Saul cope with this, his servants advise him to have a harp player to play for him. David, being known to one of the servants, is sent for and becomes Saul’s harp player and armour bearer.

David and Goliath

[1Sam 17] The armies of Philistine and Israel are again at war and face one another across a valley prepared for battle. Each morning and evening for forty days Goliath, a giant of a man, had challenged the Israel army to send a man to fight him alone to settle the battle, but all were afraid of him. David is back with his father tending the sheep at this time, and is sent by his father to take provisions to his three eldest sons who are in Saul’s army. While he is with his brothers, Goliath makes his challenge and David puts himself forward to fight him. This is reported to Saul who initially discourages David, but David relates his successes in defending his father’s sheep against bears and lions, and tells Saul that God will deliver the Philistine to him, just as He did the bears and lions. David faces Goliath with just his sling and kills him with one stone, striking him on his forehead. He then uses Goliath’s sword to cut off his head and the Philistines flee from the scene. Saul’s army pursues them and they are defeated.

Saul turns against David

[1Sam 18] Initially there is respect shown toward David by Saul and his son Jonathan. Jonathan’s to the extent that he has a love for David and he and David make a covenant of friendship. Saul puts David in charge of an army and sends him into battle. David’s success gains the admiration of everyone, provoking Saul’s anger and putting him in fear of his position. When an evil spirit from God is sent to Saul, David is called to play his harp to settle him. Saul attempts to kill David by throwing a javelin at him, but fails. He then puts David in charge of a greater number of fighting men and the people love him all the more. Saul makes a decision to try to deal with David by sending him to fight all the battles with the Philistines, in the hope that he will be killed by them. As an incentive to encourage David to go to battle, Saul offers his daughter Mereb to be his wife. But when the time comes for Mereb to be given to him, she is given to another. Saul is told that his daughter Michal loves David, so he offers her to be his wife instead. David has no dowry, so Saul makes it known that he will accept 100 Philistine foreskins, expecting David to be killed in the battle. But David returns with 200 foreskins and so Michal becomes his wife. Saul is now afraid of David because he knows God is with him, and so he becomes David’s enem y.

Saul seeks to kill David

[1Sam 19-24] Saul tells his son Jonathan and his servants that David is to be killed, but Jonathan stands up for David and reminds his father of his achievements and innocence. Saul is persuaded and swears “as the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain.” David is then able to return and be with Saul as before. David again goes to war with the Philistines and has a great victory, as a consequence of which Saul’s fears and bitterness return. He again tries to kill David with a javelin while he is playing the harp for him, but David avoids the javelin and runs off. Saul sends his servants after David to kill him, but he escapes with Michal’s help when she lets him down from her window, then pretends he is sick in bed while he flees to Samuel in Ramah. David tells Samuel of all that Saul had done and they both go to stay in Naioth. Saul hears of this and sends messengers to take David, but when they see the prophets prophesying in Samuel’s presence, the Spirit of God comes upon them and they also begin to prophesy. News of this reaches Saul and he twice more sends messengers with the same result before going himself. On his way, Saul too starts prophesying and continues to do so in Samuel’s presence through to the next morning. David then flees from Naioth and goes to see Jonathan to ask him why Saul should wish him dead. Jonathan tells David he will keep him informed of anything his father intends to do. A scheme is agreed whereby David will be informed whether Saul is yet reconciled to him, but he isn’t, and David and Jonathan have to part. They do so with much emotion and with confirmation of the covenant between them. David goes to Nob where he pretends he is on a secret mission for Saul. He and his men are hungry and are given shewbread by Abimelech the priest. Abimelech also gives David Goliath’s sword that he had kept wrapped in an ephod. Doeg, one of Saul’s herdsmen, is in Nob, so David moves on to Gath in fear of the possibility that Saul may learn of his whereabouts. Unfortunately, he is known at Gath, so feigns madness to escape from Achish the king. From Gath, David goes on to the cave of Adullam where his relations join him. About four hundred men also join David; those that are in distress or in debt or discontent in some way, and David becomes their captain. He then goes on to Mizpeth of Moab where he gets permission from the king for his parents to stay there. On the advice of Gad the prophet, David leaves for Judah with his men and goes to the forest of Hareth. Saul complains to his servants of their unfaithfulness to him, and their lack of concern of Jonathan’s faithfulness to David. Then Doeg reports what had happened at Nob, with the consequence that Saul summons Abimelech and the priests to be charged with conspiracy. Despite their defence, Saul has them executed by Doeg, the only one who would slay God’s priests. Doeg then slays all in the city of Nob, including the livestock. Only Abimelech’s son Abiathar survives to escape and tells David of the slaughter. David feels responsible because Doeg had seen him at Nob, and so takes Abiathar under his protection. David is told the Philistines are attacking Keilah. After enquiring of God, he takes his men and defeats the Philistines, saving Keilah. Saul hears of David’s success and plans to go to Keilah to surprise him. But David, again enquiring of God, leaves with his men, now six hundred in number, and takes refuge in the wilderness of Ziph where Saul pursues him. Jonathan visits David and assures him that his father will not find him, but the Ziphites offer to deliver David to Saul. Having been told David is in the wilderness of Maon, Saul pursues and surrounds David, but hears the Philistines are invading and has to leave to deal with them first. David is then able to go to stay in strongholds at Engedi. Having dealt with the Philistines, Saul takes three thousand men and resumes his pursuit of David. Saul sleeps in a cave and David has the opportunity of killing him. He is encouraged to do so by his men, but he chooses to simply cut off the skirt of his robe. When Saul arises, David goes after him and shows him how he had the opportunity to kill him but didn’t, reasoning that he is not his enemy and that Saul has no cause to pursue him. Saul confesses David is more righteous than he and that he will become king of Israel. He then asks David to swear his offspring will not be cut off, which he does, and Saul returns home.

The death of Samuel

[1Sam 25:1] And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran.

David, Nabal and Abigail

[1Sam 25:2-44] Whilst in the wilderness of Paran, David hears of Nabal, a man rich in sheep, and sends ten of his young men to request provisions, pointing out that he had done no harm to Nabal or taken anything from his shepherds. Nabal’s ill-natured refusal is reported to David, which provokes him to take arms against Nabal. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, a beautiful and intelligent woman, receives a good report from one of Nabal’s young men concerning David and his dealing with the shepherds, and the danger they are now in because of her husband’s attitude. To counter this, and without telling her husband, she takes a good selection of provisions to David as a gift, The gifts are presented to David with wise and prudent words which are well received. Abigail returns to tell her husband, but because of his drunken state, she puts off telling him until the next morning. When she does tell Nabal, he becomes ill and dies ten days later. David then takes Abigail for his wife. Meanwhile, Saul has given David’s wife Michal to another.

David flees to Philistine to escape Saul

[1Sam 26-27] The Ziphites report to Saul that David is hiding in their land. Saul then takes an army of three thousand men to seek him. David becomes aware that Saul is close by, so takes Abishai with him to reconnoitre his camp. Finding Saul and his men asleep, Abishai encourages David to kill Saul, but he refuses to harm the Lord’s anointed and takes Saul’s spear and cruse of water lying at his head. These he presents to Saul the next day as a testimony that he has no design against him. Saul returns home being again convinced of David’s innocence. David fears he will eventually perish by the hand of Saul so takes his two wives and six hundred men to the land of the Philistines, where he expects, correctly, that Saul will not pursue him. He soon finds favour in the eyes of Achish, king of Gath, and expressing a desire for a place in the country to live David is given Ziklag. After about fourteen months David invades the Geshurites, Gezrites and Amalekites, not sparing any least Achish should hear of it. When Achish enquires, David’s response leads him to believe he had invaded some parts of Israel, effectively making David Achish’s servant.

Saul and the witch of Endor

[1Sam 28] Now the Philistines again gather to do battle with Israel. Saul, fearing the Philistines, seeks answers from God, but none is forthcoming. He then resorts to seeking out a woman with a familiar spirit (the witch of Endor) to call upon Samuel. This she does and Saul learns from Samuel that he and his sons will die the next day at the hand of the Philistines, and Israel will be defeated. Saul is so taken aback by this that he refuses to eat until eventually compelled to by the women and his servant s.

Achish Sends David Back to Ziklag

[1Sam 29-30] When the Philistines are gathered to do battle with the Israelites, Achish puts David and his men to the rear of the Philistine army, but the princes, recognising David and knowing he is a Hebrew, are fearful he may turn against them. They object to his being part of the army and insist he returns to Ziklag. Following an exchange between Achish and David, during which David’s good character is not questioned, Achish sends David and his men back to Ziklag to avoid displeasing the Philistine lords. When David returns to Ziklag he finds the city burnt and all their wives, sons and daughters carried off by the Amalekites. His men are so grieved they even talk of stoning David. They come across a young man left behind by the Amalekites because he was sick, who agrees to lead them to the Amalekites. They find the Amalekites celebrating their victories and attack and kill them all, except for four hundred young men who escape on camels. Everyone of their brethren are recovered, including David’s two wives. David divides the spoil amongst those that fought as well as those that had not taken part in the battle, and even sends presents from the spoil to several places in the tribe of Judah who had been kind to him while he was in hiding from Saul.

Saul Takes His Life

[1Sam 31] Now the Philistines are strong against Israel and many are slain, including Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua. Saul is wounded by an archer and asks his armour bearer to put a sword to him, but he refuses and Saul takes his own life rather than die at the hand of a Philistine. With their king dead, his army flees and several cities are taken and inhabited by the Philistines. The next day, when the Philistines find Saul’s body, they cut off his head, strip him of his armour and fasten his body to the wall of Bethshan. When the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead hear of this, some valiant men go to retrieve Saul and his sons’ bodies and burn them at Jabesh. They then take their bones and bury them under a tree at Jabesh, then fast for seven days.
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